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Investigations leading to a conclusive decision will rely on a combination of the following activities:

  1. Clinical examination.
  2. Epidemiological investigation to obtain a general picture of disease pattern in the herd.
  3. Post-mortem examination to observe the characteristic lesions in organs of dead and/or slaughtered animals.
  4. Laboratory examination to confirm infection.

Epidemiological investigation

When CBPP is suspected, the questions asked should include the following:

1. What species of animals (e.g. cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, and wild animals) are present on the livestock holding facility (or village). How many of each is present and which species are affected?

If domestic or wild animals other than cattle or water buffaloes are affected, a condition other than CBPP should be considered.

2. What ages of cattle/domestic buffaloes are affected?

Record the various age groups of the animals (e.g. under 6 months; 7 to 18 months; over 18 months). In CBPP, the more severe respiratory forms are observed in adult animals.

3. Have the cattle been vaccinated against CBPP or other epidemic diseases, and, if so, when did the last vaccination take place? Which vaccine was used? How many animals were vaccinated? Who conducted the vaccination?

If all the cattle have been vaccinated with a quality-assured CBPP vaccine at the appropriate time intervals, they should theoretically not develop the disease. However, CBPP can still occur in non-vaccinated cattle in partially vaccinated herds, and even in vaccinated cattle that have not been re-vaccinated as scheduled.

4. When did the first signs of disease appear? Is this the first time that this disease has occurred? If not, what are the approximate dates of previous episodes?

This can help to indicate whether the disease is endemic or newly introduced, and can help to calculate when infection entered the herd.

5. Have other cattle been bought or introduced for any reason during the six months before the disease was first noticed? If so, from where? Did any become sick?

The answer can provide a clue as to how the disease entered the herd.

6. Was the herd exposed to another herd, during the six months before the disease was first noticed? Do nomadic herds pass through the area? If so, when and from where?

Nomadic herds can be a CBPP reservoir. The answers can also provide an explanation of how the disease might have entered the farm or herd.

7. Are grazing lands, water holes, and drinking troughs or dipping tanks shared with other nomadic or sedentary herds?

This is to indicate possible contacts with animals from other herds, allowing tracing of the origin of outbreak, and therefore help to provide an early warning signal of disease spread in the locality.

8. Were replacement animals vaccinated against CBPP and other diseases before or after introduction to the herd?

This provides information why sickness might be limited to a particular group of animals.

9. Does the community know the disease and does it have a local name?

Pastoralists are often able to provide a useful guide to disease conditions they have encountered in the past.

10. Have the infected animals been treated with antibiotic(s)? If so, which type(s)?

Antibiotics may mask the clinical appearance of CBPP and alter the progression of disease in a herd. They may also alter the appearance of typical pathological lesions and thereby complicate diagnosis of the disease.

11. What are the signs observed in diseased animals?

Respiratory signs are more evident in adult cattle, whereas enlargement of joints may be present in calves under six months of age.

12. How many animals are clinically sick out of the total?

13. How many animals have died since the outbreak occurred ?

14. What is the health status in neighbouring herds?

To decide if CBPP is present in the area, the neighbouring herds should be inspected for evidence of disease.

15. Have any animals been sold, transferred or given on loan in the last six months, e.g. for ploughing or as gift (dowry)?

The answer to this question might give important information on spread of the disease and assist in tracing the source of the outbreak.

Clinical examination

As the clinical appearance of the disease can differ between individuals in a herd depending on the different stages of disease development, it is important to examine as large a number of animals as possible in order to obtain a full clinical picture. A notebook is essential to systematically record all the findings for later reference. The use of pieces of paper is not recommended, as these often get lost, and the vital information with them.

1. Record the farmer's or animal attendant's observations

Ask for the farmer's or animal attendant's description of the disease observed.

Has any treatment been given? Antibiotics such as tylosin and the tetracyclines can be effective in modulating clinical symptoms and progress of disease.

[Conventional understanding is that antibiotic therapy is contra-indicated in outbreaks of CBPP because it is believed that its use leads to the generation of a high proportion of “lungers” (chronic carriers with sequestra in the lungs) in the herd and that these can later spread infection to susceptible cattle. This may be true, but in most countries in which CBPP occurs, antibiotic therapy is a fact of life. Disagreement over its use should not be allowed to create a barrier between the animal health worker and livestock owner.]

Have any cows aborted?

2. Observe the animals at rest

Before attempting to handle the animals, check if they are alert or depressed, if lameness is present, and if body condition is satisfactory for the time of year and type of management system.

Do any stand with the neck and head extended, forelegs spread apart, mouth open and panting for air? It is worth remembering that this also happens not only to:

Is breathing difficult, rapid and painful? If breathing is difficult, the nostrils are generally dilated and clear or bloodstained discharge may be seen from the nostrils.

Check the character and rate of respiration. Is it fast (more than 20 per minute)?

Do any animals cough?

Is there discharge from the eyes and nose? A clear discharge may be present.

3. Physical examination

Take the rectal temperature: in acute cases it can rise above 40C.

Check the surface lymph nodes: enlargement is not a feature.

Check the mouth, including the lining of the lips, tongue, cheek papillae and the hard palate - lesions are not found, unlike in rinderpest and foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), although saliva may dribble from the mouth.

4. Force the animals to run for a few minutes and examine them again

CBPP symptoms can be more clearly seen after a few minutes exercise - coughing and signs of lameness.

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